Sign law changes rejected after 5th hearing

After five public hearings and four tries, amendments to Starkville sign regulations have yet to be approved.
The seven-member Board of Aldermen rejected the drafted revisions by a split vote Tuesday, citing disagreements with a proposed amortization period, which would allow non-conforming signs a period of seven years to begin following the city’s sign ordinance.
This would mean the removal or alteration of monument signs, mutli-tenant business signs, pole signs and roof signs. Non-conforming wall signs would have one year for removal or alteration, while non-conforming window signs would have 180 days.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver argued that the amortization period would force costs onto Starkville’s small business owners.
“It’s passing that on to somebody that really didn’t have anything to do with the sign in the first place,” Carver said.
Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr. said that the language on the amortization period needed to be modified before the board passes any revisions.
But officials who supported the revisions argued that the aesthetic results of an amortization period would not only benefit the community but also the businesses in the long run.
“Seven years is a good bit of time to allow businesses to do this,” said Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, whose efforts to pass the revisions were to improve the “visually blighted” areas of the city by starting with its signs, he said, which is the first thing newcomers see.
Vice Mayor Sandra Sistrunk said the sign ordinances she researched only allow five years.
Sistrunk argued that many of signs on Highway 12 were built for a highway and not a business district, which is what it has become over the last decade.
“They don’t work for consumers,” she said, adding that when she drives on the road, she is looking out and not up.
After the board rejected the revisions, Dumas rose the question of fairness for new businesses not able to profit from nonconforming signs that were “grandfathered” in for other businesses without a deadline to conform to the ordinance.
Starkville’s ad-hoc sign committee will make further revisions for a sixth public hearing with the date to be announced.
In other business Tuesday, the board approved the following:
• A waiver of the banner permit fees for the homecoming banner competition.
• A resolution to adopt a fair housing policy for the city.
• A resolution adopting minority/women business goals and objectives.
• A resolution adopting an affirmative marketing plan for the city.
• Certification that requirements for the home investment partnership program have been met.
• The minutes of the city’s 2010 public hearing on Home Initial on September 2, 2010.
• A resolution stating that the city will comply with the selection process for the 2010 home application process.
• Amending the city’s sign ordinance.
• Authorization or the Commission on Disability to provide technical assistance for the city’s ADA self-evaluation and transition plan for the public facilities.
• The proposal for the matching funding expenditures for the beautification committee.
• The 2010 MDOT grant offer of $7,654.
• A request by Davey McReynolds for “Vine Street Cove Subdivision” at 502 and 504 Vine Street.
• Claims for all departments except the fire department as of October 16, 2010.
• The report of receipts and expenditures for the period ending on August 31, 2010.
• Advertising for bids for the purchase of two 15 KV pad mounted switchgear unties to be installed in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology & Economic Development Park on Highway 182 East.
• The job description for the head of the Electric Department and authorization to advertise for the position with the pending retirement of current manager Edd Hattaway.
• Hiring Don Gunn Jr. as a sanitation laborer.
• Advertising for requests for proposals for the city of Starkville curbside recycling program.
• The lowest and best bed for 25-yard rear loading sanitation trucks.
• Advertising of an eight-yard rear loading refuse truck with a lease to purchase contract with full warranty.
The Board of Aldermen next meets on Oct. 5.